Giving Thanks, 2014 Edition

It’s Thanksgiving Eve. Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays, a day to consider how we are blessed (in a fortunate way/not simply a “Christian” way) and a day to consider – honestly – just how lucky we are.

It would be easy for me to say that 2014 has sucked so far, and ask The Universe just where the hell my “blessings” are.

In August 2014, I closed my business after almost seven years of (literally) blood, sweat and tears. Mostly tears. The closing of my business was a bit devastating emotionally and certainly was, and continues to be, somewhat crushing financially as well. With the closing of my business came my return to the employment market as a job SEEKER – I hadn’t “filled out an application” in more than probably twenty years; each of my jobs before opening my own business was the result of scouting by my then-future employer – I got ASKED to work with them. Reciting my high school GPA and “Other Interests” was something very alien and foreign to me.

The summer and fall of 2014, I stood by and watched as state after state achieved marriage equality, while my state CONTINUES to maintain an almost pre-Stonewall attitude around this issue. And earlier this month, somehow my state granted the madman that is our governor the power of four more years to destroy our state. And don’t even ask me about what happened in the Senate.

Probably saddest, in October of 2014, I lost my father, my beloved Pop-pop, to a long and valiant battle with cancer. I lost Grammy (my mom) six years ago and, during the time since, my Dad and I had become closer than ever; in fact, it was like getting to know him all over again. I called Pop-pop every day. I miss him, and I miss my Mom. A lot. A well-intentioned friend called me an “orphan” upon finding out my Pop-pop had passed away. I am NOT an orphan. I have two AMAZING parents – they are just away from me now, for the time being. They are now two amazing guardian angels.

Those are just the “highlights” of 2104 for me but – you know what? The year has been pretty great to me as well…

While I closed my business, I embarked on not one but TWO new endeavors, one at a cherished public institution in my adopted hometown and one in a new design venture with a new partner who is, in fact, my husband. Both careers look bright and, while I am “starting on the ground floor” at both, good things are already happening at each. Two days ago, I got promoted at “my day job” and assumed a new position within the organization, a position that suggests career growth and a stable, secure future. As far as my new design venture goes, working with my life partner/husband is a joy and our new firm is already developing a following. Hooray!

Even though Ohio (my state) is in The Dark Ages as far as marriage equality goes, I am legally-married to my husband and we will soon be celebrating the one year anniversary of his Green Card approval (that was a L-O-N-G journey/struggle, chronicled in many previous posts here on this blog). If it is possible, I think that guy loves me more every day – and I love him more, too. Eventually, Ohio will “see the light” and finally join the 21st Century with regard to LGBT rights and equality.

Finally, while I miss BOTH my parents every day, I am happy to know that they are reunited and happy. And contrary to what I feared, being “parent-less” has not left me feeling rudderless or adrift. Rather, I feel empowered and almost a bit reckless (but in a good way). The state of answering only to yourself for your actions (and your spouse, of course!) is actually a very liberating one. I like it. I miss Grammy and Pop-pop terribly but the freedom they have given me is a great, great gift.

So all in all, 2014? Maybe NOT so bad so far… Sure, heck – I hope 2015 will be even better but we still DO have almost a month of 2014 left. Who knows? It may still turn out to be the best year ever…

It’s funny. I was looking for a profound, “deep” quote about being thankful and ran across this sage advice from Oprah Winfrey herself. Who’da ever thought I’d be sharing inspiring Oprah quotes on my blog? Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Thanksgiving Oprah

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Challenge Accepted

Given all the upheaval and turmoil/change in my life recently, I have vowed to attempt DO the following:

ugly day

I have to admit, many days since 28 August this goal has been all-but-impossible to achieve. That admission aside, things ARE gradually getting better and each day IS actually getting less ugly and more beautiful. Thanks, Universe!

Revelations About Grammy and Pop-pop

On Sunday, I began the task of organizing and clearing out my parents’ house, readying it for sale after my father’s recent death. My Mom passed away six years ago and my Dad (Pop-pop) pretty-much left the house intact since – I mean, my Mom’s cigarette case is still on the coffee table and a pack of Kool 100’s is in the freezer (now six years old). Anyway, today was the first few hours in what I can see will be a lengthy process.

My goal today was to organize my parents’ living room, making it look as though they still lived there – not for any creepy reason but out of respect to their memories, and the house they loved. My father spent his final few weeks at home before he passed away there. Since the hospital bed got picked up, there has been a “hole” in the living room and the coffee table became the unofficial sponge bath staging area, holding towels and bedding. It was important to me that the room be returned to its former semi-glorious state, more or less as an homage to my parents and the house I grew up in.

As my project got underway, the first thing I noticed was that, in the final few months of his life, it appears Pop-pop replaced household cleaning products with household disinfecting products, as if Clorox Wipes and Dow Scrubbing Bubbles would make his cancer disappear. I wound up dusting the furniture with a damp cloth (goodness knows, my Mom accumulated 1000+ dish towels in her life, LOL!) Then I began the “clearing-and-straightening-up” process. I immediately determined three things:

1. My Mom never met a silk flower she didn’t like. Or a candle ring. Or a garland of silk ivy…

candle ring

I must have tossed three or four candle rings (all seasons, BTW), more than a few garlands of silk ivy (my Mom had taken to wrapping them around curtain rods; it is a look for sure) and two silk arrangements from her OWN funeral – saved by my father after – now all dusty and faded. Don’t get me wrong – my LOVE for my parents is boundless BUT my Mother definitely had her own ideas when it came to “home accessorizing.” Which leads into revelation two…

2. Grammy had an addition to burgundy key tassels. A serious addiction.

tassel

I must have “liberated” about eighteen of these today from my parents’ living room, They were on door knobs and cabinet pulls, hanging off the dining room chandelier (not even kidding!) and pinned to curtain edges. Again, I love Grammy, but Mom, please – enough with the key tassels already. And finally, Pop-pop’s answer to key tassels?

3. The Yellow Pages. My Dad was a phone book “hoarder.” I cleared 2005 thru 2013 out of the house today.

phone booksMy father’s attraction to phone books is odd – he hated talking on the phone. I suppose he just always wanted to ensure he could find a number when he needed one.

So anyway, when I left, I was quite pleased with how the living room “looked” – it was neat, organized and clean. I was not happy, however, with how the room “felt.” Sad thing is, in my efforts to make it look like someone “lived there.” I made it look like a model apartment: stacks of books here, strategically-placed pillows on every piece of upholstery and – forgive me, Grammy, forgive me Pop-pop – I also re-arranged the lamps.

I know – I am a horrible son (and anal retentive/ mild OCD, too!) And, know what was REALLY missing from the living room, the one thing I cannot “fix” or glam up? My parents are gone.

I’d stack those phone books, re-hang all those tassels AND wind faux ivy around any length of chain, rod or rail if I could only have my parents back. I missed them today, BIG TIME. And while I relished pitching those excessive things out, I’d be the happiest child on earth if I could hear my Dad ask for a phone book, or have my Mom ask me which candle ring I liked better.

I miss you Mom, I miss you Dad. Please look after each other, OK and, if you could, give me a glance every now and again, I’d really appreciate it. Thanks in advance!

How Do You Decide?

boxes-keep-throw-donate

It has now been over a week since my father passed away, I have been busying myself with “executor” duties almost every day. It is hard to imagine what one must do to “prove” that someone you loved has died until you are actually called upon to do it. Thanks to my awesome friends, sympathy cards continue to arrive. They are sweet and touching but also serve as daily, multi-color reminders that Pop-pop is gone. Sigh… Then there is tomorrow’s task.

Tomorrow I will be at my Dad’s house for two reasons:

1. Monday would have been his 85th birthday so I want to “visit” him and Mom at the cemetery and mark the day with a small celebration.

2. It is time for the purging to begin. To borrow a mantra from professional organizers (and hoarders), it is time to begin the process of “Keep. Throw Away. Donate.”

I am not looking forward to this endeavor.

My Dad lived in the same house for forty-two years and, while he was a tidy guy, he was also very frugal – meaning that few things ever got “thrown away.” This thing was saved for parts. That thing was here in case we “ever needed one.” And let’s be honest – a person just accumulates a LOT of stuff in the course of eighty-plus years of living.

I am going down alone, partly because I need some alone time at my parents’ house and partly because I simply do not know how productive the visit will be. Sure, some things are easy – old magazines and papers, well-worn bath towels and dozens of “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” containers with the lids (my Mom always sent food home with us when she was alive). Some things are harder – my Dad’s clothes, some of my Mom’s remaining things that Dad could not bear to part with and pictures, lots of pictures. My senior picture, all the grand kids’ photos – heck, my parents’ fridge is one giant photo collage. Where does it all go? How do you decide what to keep?

I’ve decided to let my heart decide. During future visits I will have input from my sibs but this first “run down” it will just be me, alone in the house my parents loved, the house I grew up in, the place that holds many memories for me. Those are what I most plan on keeping – all the great, loving memories of growing up there, the “Hallmark Holidays” with my family (my goodness, my Mom never met a holiday guest towel or candle ring she didn’t love!), the tree I grew from a seed that is now like 35 feet tall in the back yard, the bent mailbox post (bent because I ran over it as I was learning to drive almost forty years ago…)

Some things will get tossed. Some things will get donated. But some things I will cherish forever.

Stars in the sky

It has now been one week and one day since my Pop-pop passed away. My life has somewhat returned to normal (I am blogging again, LOL!), although it is definitely a “new” normal. I still find myself looking at the clock, wondering if it is too late to call him. I thought today that I needed to remind him that Saturday is my beloved Martin’s birthday, but remembered that he wouldn’t forget because his birthday is this coming Monday. Their birthdays are only two days apart.

Then I remembered that we wouldn’t be celebrating Pop-pop’s 85th this year, and it made me sad. Sad that my two favorite guys wouldn’t be together and sad that I wouldn’t be there with them. Losing one parent sucks; losing both parents? It’s hard to describe the emptiness.

This saying came into my head tonight, supposedly an “Eskimo Proverb” – and shouldn’t that really be called an Inuit Proverb? Anyway, I have always taken great comfort in the past when I read it, and tonight it is no different…

starsMaybe my Dad always knew this proverb was true. Before he became ill, many nights you could find him sitting outside my parents’ back door, on a tree stump that serves as a stool (it looks really cool, I promise), just staring at the stars. When I was younger, he tried to teach me all the constellations, although I never made it beyond the Big and Little Dippers.

He would sit in silence in the dark, looking at the bright night sky, content and happy. On the occasions when I was home visiting and this would happen, I would ask him if he wanted any company, and he always said, “No, that’s OK. I am just fine out here.” Now I guess I finally understand why. He wasn’t alone at all.

The sky is a bit cloudy tonight but Pop-pop? I’ll be out there very soon, looking for you and Mom. Give me a little twinkle when I find you two, OK?

I’ll Love You Forever…

I have just come home, having spent the past two days with my Dad (Pop-pop). It was a beautiful and heartbreaking visit, a time of learning new terms (urine output, barrier creme, vacant stare, resting comfortably) as well as leaning a whole new list of “non’s:” non-verbal, non-responsive, non-engaged, non-emotive.

My father is dying and, no matter how much I wish that weren’t the case, it is true. It sucks…

When I went home Sunday afternoon, Pop-pop could still talk. His eyes connected with mine – we had (brief) conversations. Over the course of Monday, conversation moved from simply “Yes” or “No” responses to a thousand words spoken only with a look, a glance. A question was asked and the response could be seen in my father’s gray-blue eyes. Those “conversations” were beautiful and perfect, simple and easily understood. Gone was all the BS pretense of father/son, parent/child, man-to-man, etc. Left behind was simply a beautiful exchange of pure love and affection, flowing wordlessly between the two of us. Something as simple as a sip of water became a massively-appreciated gesture, and was rewarded with a powerful, loving glance that I will never forget. The emotion was raw and unvarnished – again, pure in its essence, It was amazing.

I felt a bit guilty when I left today, telling my Pop-pop goodbye and that I would see him again soon. I think he knows I was lying as much as I know it, too… I suspect that, very soon, Pop-pop will be moving to the next step on his soul journey, a moment that will make me happy and very, very sad, all at the same time. It is a painful paradox, this transition. Leaving behind the finite, earthly life we all have and moving forward, ahead into the next step, the next evolution of the blossoming of one’s soul. Words fail me tonight (except all the non’s). Much like Pop-pop, I cannot communicate how I feel with words now.

I hope my Pop-pop knows how much I love and will miss him; I am sure he does but I suppose I wish I could hear him say it one more time. But then I remember “that” look, and I know my hope has already been fulfilled. Sleep well tonight, Pop-pop. Sleep well…

letting_go_byBTW, the title of this post comes from a beautiful poem-made-children’s book, named “Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch. You may read the entire poem here, and read the back story about the poem on the author’s website by clicking here. When you read the poem, please substitute Pop-pop for Mommy. Thanks.

Tired

Every time I hear my phone – be it a text message beep or an actual ringtone – my heart stops for a minute. I always wonder if this will be “the” call.

Pop-pop is fading rapidly now, and whatever residual, foolish hope I and my siblings may have held for a miracle now seems unattainable. My Dad is getting ready to go on to Heaven, or a higher plane, or whatever terminology you prefer. I do not want him to go but I cannot bear to see him suffer.

Well-intentioned friends and family members have suggested we say to Pop-pop that it’s OK. You can go. The really sad thing is, I think they are right. And, I have come to realize that maybe it is not Pop-pop that doesn’t want to let go, it’s me…

You are tiredIt’s a strange feeling, you know, getting ready to essentially become an orphan. No matter how good or bad one’s parents are/were – and mine are/were pretty great – once they leave, once that anchor falls away, we are left alone. I mean, I am lucky – I have an amazing spouse (I love you MSW!), a small but frickin’ outstanding circle of true and loving friends and a pretty great therapist, LOL! I will be fine. But there is definitely an uneasiness hovering nearby me, waiting. Waiting till I am “alone” with my life, with no one really to answer to about it. It is a pretty overwhelming feeling at times.

I am thankful for the loving parents I got. Folks that know me well know I believe we all “pick” our parents – I got a flipping amazing pair. Perfect in their imperfections, my Mom and Dad were a great gift to me. I love them both very much. I miss my Mom every day, and worry now that – regrettably and unavoidably – I will soon miss my Pop-pop every day, too…

I know Mom is waiting for him, and I know he is waiting to see her again. My parents loved one another for fifty-one years, a record I hope to match in my own life with Martin (I have to live to be 100, but I accept the challenge!) My Dad has always been a little lost without Mom and, while I know my Mom has had good company these almost seven years since her crossing over, I know she will be happy to see my Dad again.

My cousin Vickie recently said to me that every one is 33 years old in Heaven. I’m not sure where she got that intel but I like the idea – my Mom and Dad young, beautiful/handsome and very much in love again. I hope Vickie is correct…